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Sex & the Smartphone: A Modern Girl's Guide to Internet Etiquette

by Debbie Saslaw, Editor/Motion Graphics Artist on February 14, 2012 · 3 comments

Valentine's Day TextMagnet’s core mission is to explore the marriage of storytelling and technology. We’re extremely focused on ways we can use technology to achieve our business goals, so it’s easy forget how often technology intervenes in our personal lives. On that note, we would be remiss if we didn’t use this festive occasion to explore the impact that technology has on romance, from the first date and beyond.

A few months ago, I met a young man at a local Brooklyn watering hole. Though the exact details of the conversation may have evaporated on the dance floor, I knew his first name and the fact that he taught a computer programming class. Using those two tiny tidbits of information, I managed to Google the living daylights out of the poor guy. I mercilessly trolled his Facebook profile to make sure there were no outstanding girlfriends or weird facial growths. I knew what kind of music he listened to and what kind of books he read, so I publicly declared our compatibility and psyched myself up to the point of no return.

Unfortunately, by the time I went out with said Programmer, there was no mystery. And no matter what stage you’re in, mystery is the necessary Duraflame that keeps any relationship well kindled.

By no means am I proud of my incessant Internet lurking, but I’m hoping this misadventure can shed light on some of the ways we use technology to inhibit our personal relationships. We spend entirely too much time cultivating a positive Internet presence, turning digital knobs until we seem like hipper, happier, more attractive versions of ourselves. This well-curated portfolio may make us appealing to potential buyers, but as I’ve recently learned, dating isn’t fun if you’ve already assessed the goods.

But what if your relationship begins online? After all, “1 in 5 relationships now begin online!” and this little statistic rears its ugly head each time a friend of mine falls in love with someone she met on or OkCupid. I still subscribe to the theory that online dating is for geeks with bad skin and a stage-5 Warcraft addiction, but I accept the fact that going on a pre-established date with a stranger from the Internet is just as awkward as the first sober encounter with that “dude from the bar.”

The problem is that online dating takes a lot of work. Since the Internet usually provides us with instant gratification, the overwhelming frog-to-prince ratio becomes pretty discouraging pretty quickly. Quite frankly, I’m too impatient to keep exchanging valuable witty repartee with a complete stranger. But if you’re shy, this virtual interaction can help jumpstart mutual feelings of compatibility. There’s no grey area here, as you’ve both signed up to endure online scrutiny because you’re looking for a partner. There’s no “Will he text me?” or “Should I text him?”

Which brings me to my next point: The Text Message is the single most destructive invention since the Atom Bomb. I wish I were joking, but I’ve probably spent more time analyzing a text exchange between two budding lovers than the time it took scientists to develop the Manhattan Project.

There are so many rules we’ve created for ourselves: don’t text him first, don’t text him after 10pm, use a ;) but not a :). If they’re not responding to your texts in a timely matter, don’t have an aneurysm (my friends are probably cracking up right now, since I rarely practice what I’m preaching). The point is that if you’re interested in someone, they probably know it, and a perfectly executed text message will not make or break the relationship. One of the single most valuable things I’ve ever seen on the Internet is’s “Should I Text Him?” Flowchart. You can thank me later.

Forgive the inexcusable Carrie Bradshaw reference, but I’m obviously speaking from the perspective of a single, urban-dwelling female whose dating dilemmas can be traced back to the sheer lack of available men in New York City. But for the fools lucky enough to receive flowers this Valentine’s Day, I have one piece of invaluable insight: Social Media should not turn you into a private detective.

We’ve all been there: a random girl “likes” your boyfriend’s Facebook status, or your fiancé has used Foursquare to check-in to a bar in a mysterious part of town. Unsolicited social networking does not necessarily warrant infidelity. Once those wheels start turning, you start clicking aimlessly and all of a sudden you’ve convinced yourself that the girl who was tagged in that one Facebook photo from Halloween of ’09 is most definitely up to no good.

You’ll drive yourself crazy when you start clicking around for clues. Trust your partner and more importantly, trust yourself, because you know better. Whether you’ve been together for 2 weeks or 20 years, you’re bound to sabotage a perfectly healthy relationship if you start overanalyzing every action your partner makes, whether it’s online or off.

Dating is difficult in this digital age and unfortunately it’s not going to get easier as these social networks evolve. But if you’ve learned anything from these musings, you’ll realize that there is such a thing as too much information and ultimately, virtual flirtation can’t replace those ever-elusive butterflies that manifest themselves once you’ve meet someone amazing.

Did you just vomit?
Sorry about that.

Happy Valentines Day

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Debbie SaslawDebbie Saslaw makes up 1/2 of Magnet Media’s post-production staff and doubles as the company’s resident expert on Internet culture. She also edits a weekly supercut for Slacktory and her viral videos have garnered more than 1 million hits after appearing on sites such as Buzzfeed, HuffPost Comedy, Uproxx,, and The Daily What.

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